Tech bullies: Tech pioneers gone bad

Everybody loves the underdog -- until it comes out on top.

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Inside the compound

Picture courtesy of Flickr user Extra Ketchup

Google

Coming in close behind Apple for the sheer swing of turnaround is another company once thought of as an alternative to the way business was done in the tech industry. Founded by two nerdy academics as a part of a research project, the original Google search engine page -- just a logo and a search box on an otherwise blank page -- was a marked contrast to the increasingly-crowded portals of the late '90s, and the search quality was so much better than the competition that people were willing to embrace the company as a savior of an increasingly crowded Web. Even when the company turned to money-making pursuits, the avenue they took to do so -- tiny text ads -- seemed positively tasteful compared to the punch-the-monkey banner ads everyone was sick of. They seemed a small price to pay. The company had "Don't be evil" as its motto, for Pete's sake. How could it be bad?

[ So, Why Do We Trust Google with Our Data? ]

Perhaps the first twinges of doubt in the mainstream came with the advent of Gmail. Yes, Google had created an elegant Webmail platform that ran circles around the other offerings at the time, especially in terms of storage. But contextual ads based on the content of public Web pages were one thing; when they were based on the the content of your private emails, didn't that seem a little ... creepy? As the '00s progressed, it became clear that Google's stated aim to "organize the world's information" in practice involved keeping track of your information and Web-surfing habits. The omnipresence of Google's advertising platform gives one pause; have you ever been unnerved to, say, search Google for the price of gold, only to have the Google ads on the next 10 Web sites you visit offer up gold coins for sale? Concerns about user privacy have transformed Google's reputation into a much more ambivalent one for the '10s.

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